I was sexually assaulted when I was 19 years old. After almost two years of denial, I was at the height of my healing process and didn’t think anyone could make a false accusation against someone. I was wrong.
The incident that changed my mind was the rape allegation against NHL star Patrick Kane. Kane denied the accuser at the start, and things fell apart for the accuser when her mother tampered with evidence and lied to authorities to make Kane appear guilty.
To say I was disgusted would be an understatement. I couldn’t imagine someone being that cruel to not only the man they falsely accused but also to sexual assault survivors as a whole. Furthermore, this hit a deep nerve for me personally because, while Kane’s case unfolded, I was accused of making up my own sexual assault for attention. At the same time, I was watching Kane help the Chicago Blackhawks (my favorite and hometown hockey team) win a championship — one of the few things that made me smile in that dark period of my life. I wrote an article about it for my college writing job, and I’ve been fascinated by the grotesque phenomenon of false allegations since.
We’ll never know what motivated Kane’s accuser and her mother to lie to authorities, but it’s a perfect example of an attempt to ruin someone’s life with a false allegation of sexual assault. False allegations were recently made against Justin Bieber and members of the cast of Riverdale, reigniting the discussion of the harm of a false rape allegation.
There’s nothing behind false rape accusations other than the desire to publicly humiliate the victim and ruin their reputation.
False Accusations against Justin Bieber
Two Twitter users recently took to the platform to accuse Justin Bieber of sexual assault. A young woman named Danielle accused Bieber of assaulting her in his hotel room at the Four Season’s Hotel in Austin, Texas after a concert on March 9, 2014. Another young woman made a similar claim of an event that occurred in a New York hotel in May 2015. Bieber was quick to respond, claiming these assaults were "factually impossible" and provided proof of his whereabouts on the nights in question by showing emails and receipts.
Shortly after he debunked the accusations, Bieber tweeted the following:
False Accusations against the Riverdale Cast
On June 20, 2020, Riverdale cast members Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart, KJ Apa, and Vanessa Morgan were accused of sexual assault on Twitter. The accusations included a young woman claiming that Sprouse “fondled her breasts” at an NYU party in 2013 and that Reinhart groped a fan while taking a photo in 2019. After the actors denied any wrongdoing, the Twitter users admitted that they made the whole thing up.
The actors and fans of the show were rightfully disgusted. Sprouse tweeted:
Riverdale star Camila Mendes quickly came to the defense of her castmates. In a post on her Instagram story, she wrote, "It's incredibly destructive to falsely accuse people of sexual assault, whatever point this person was trying to make about how quickly people believe what they read, it was not worth damaging the integrity of the #MeToo movement. It's sickening and doesn't prove anything except that there are twisted people in this world who have no concern for the consequences of their harmful actions.”
False accusations do tremendous damage to victims of actual assault.
The Purpose Of False Accusations Is To Humiliate And Destroy Reputations
Taking to social media with a fake, anonymous account in order to share a supposed story of sexual assault is exactly the opposite of what a victim seeking justice would do. If we still believe in the power of law and order, then it is the court of law, not the court of public opinion, that should be handling instances of rape or sexual assault. Which begs the question, if these accusers know that social media is the wrong place to air their grievance, what is their true aim with these accusations?
We already know their aim. We've seen dozens of celebrities and figures taken down over the last several years by insensitive tweets, liking the wrong social media post, or refusing to bow to radical dogma. The point of these campaigns is clearly not to seek justice; their aim is to humiliate the accused and ruin their reputation. It also creates a dangerous precedent for actual victims, who may now be accused of attention-seeking when they try to bring their stories forward.
I applaud Bieber and the Riverdale cast for taking legal action against their false accusers. False accusations aren’t a joke, and they sometimes result in the accused getting incarcerated for a crime they didn't commit. It also furthers the false belief that women are lying about being sexually assaulted. While false accusations are rare (one study concluded that only 2-10% of reported sexual assaults are false), stories of false allegations are more likely to get covered by the media. This makes it much more difficult for real survivors of sexual assault to come forward, often leaving their assailant to get away with it again.
These accusers also destroy the lives and reputations of the men (or women) they are falsely accusing. Our society used to believe in "innocent until proven guilty." So the push to believe all accusations, no matter what, has put all of us at risk. We shouldn't create a world where we're all one anonymous tweet away from a ruined life.
In her song, “Til It Happens To You” where she tells her story sexual assault, Lady Gaga sings, “'Til it happens to you, you don't know how it feels.” As a sexual assault survivor myself, I can confirm this is true. If we as a society truly have empathy for sexual assault survivors, we need to take false allegations of sexual assault more seriously. Though those who haven’t suffered will never be able to understand, the least they can do to show empathy is to take these false reports seriously and make it easier for survivors to come forward.
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